The 70s and 80s were probably cool to live in, but millennials hit the jackpot with the '90s. Our childhoods revolved around Space Jam, Hi-C Ecto Cooler, and the dream of being saturated in green slime. It was a decade that holds some of our most cherished memories, yet was really fucking weird at the same time. A case in point: how dark our kids' movies were.
Of most importance to our primitive years were the old kid flicks that we watched over and over again on Reagan-era TV sets. We’d pop in the VHS, sit six inches from the screen, and boom—we were babysat by animated woodland creatures with celebrity voices.
Looking back now, these classic movies got pretty dark at times. Sometimes really dark. But we were too young and feeble-minded to realize the mature themes right in front of us.
Here are some grim throwback moments we need to take a second look at as “adults,” whatever the hell that means:
Sid from Toy Story was a textbook sociopath
Sid was a psychotic little bastard who gave Pixar’s first feature-length movie a slightly sadistic edge. He blew up a G.I. Joe with an M80 (this 10-year-old has access to explosives?), he performed cross-genetic experiments on toys, and he burned Woody’s forehead with a magnifying glass. Worst of all, he got thrown out of summer camp early. You know those obnoxious children you see all the time and want to kick in the chest? That’s Sid.
Bambi’s mother was shot and killed
This scene taught most of us what death is. Walt Disney was a tough dude when it came to those themes of separation and the loss of innocence. Bambi and her mom are just chillin’, prancing along, eating some fresh spring grass, and then, of course, asshole humans intervene and ruin everything.
The most haunting part is when Bambi’s dad tells his son, “Your mother can’t be with you anymore.” The movie is over 70 years old but that cold, fatherly voice never ceases to be creepy.
Gordon Bombay had to coach hockey because he got a DUI
When we were kids, we thought Gordon Bombay got pulled over for speeding or playing his radio too loud. We thought he was knocking back a couple of delicious Shasta colas. We didn’t realize he was going on a casual late-night booze cruise to blow off some steam. It was a pretty shitty situation to show children who have over a decade to go before drinking.
Yet without his felony there wouldn’t have been The Mighty Ducks, knuckle pucks, or Goldberg’s farts, which we’ve all come to know and love.
Cruella de Vil wanted to slaughter 101 puppies to make a single coat
If you held any kid up to Glenn Close’s face after 101 Dalmations came out in ’96, they would proceed to cry, spit, and piss all over her. The loony old hag’s sole mission was to kill and skin over 100 adorable little pups just for the sake of a jacket that would probably look like shit anyway. She actually says in the movie she prefers puppy skin because their fur becomes coarser as they get older. Very Buffalo Bill of her.
Every single minute of Simon Birch
Easily the most depressing movie I ever watched as a kid. From Simon’s stunted growth condition to his accidental killing of his best friend’s mother, there are mso any mature themes and tragic accidents pervasive throughout the movie that should’ve made it more than PG. My wussy 9-year-old self might have even shed a tear the first time I watched it.
The only comic aspect is Jim Carrey as the narrator, which was surprisingly dramatic and deep. Never expected that from a dude whose role history before the film involved a moronic animal detective and a cable guy with a lisp.
A rhinoceros ate James’ parents in James and the Giant Peach
Henry Selick and Tim Burton are known for their gloomy offbeat animation (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline) but nothing was scarier for us young bloods than growing up thinking a ghost rhinoceros might eat our parents at any moment.
Not to mention, James is forced into slave labor for his aunts in a Jesse Pinkman kind of way. James, thankfully, didn’t cook meth for his aunts—but those gross chicks sure as shit looked like they were on it.
Littlefoot’s mom dies in The Land Before Time
In terms of the kids genre, these movies get a bad rep because there’s like 15 sequels that were direct-to-video. Nothing beats the original, though, mostly due to Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ involvement but also because it covered the raw themes of diversity, poverty, and death.
The death of Littlefoot’s only caretaker still kills a little bit of my soul every time I watch it. The combination of his innocent baby voice and the score’s depressing overtone made this a sad and shitty moment in the Mesozoic era.